Syria army starts offensive to recapture militant-held eastern Aleppo
Iran Press TV
Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:3AM
The Syrian army has announced the start of a new large-scale military operation in Aleppo aimed at flushing foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants from the eastern flanks of the strategic northwestern city.
The Syrian Command of Military Operations in Aleppo announced on Thursday that the offensive has been mounted, urging civilians to avoid areas where militants are congregated, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.
It added that government forces had already prepared corridors for those willing to leave eastern Aleppo, and necessary facilities to receive and accommodate civilians had been prepared.
Meanwhile, a high-level international meeting on the Syrian crisis broke up in New York on Thursday after parties could not reach an agreement to resuscitate a collapsed ceasefire in Syria.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had opposed requests to ground Russian and Syrian fighter jets and stop the bombardment of terrorist positions.
"The question now is whether there remains any real chance of moving forward, because it is clear that we cannot continue on the same path any longer," Kerry said.
"The first thing that we have to do is to find a way to restore credibility to the process. The only way to achieve that is if the ones that have the air power in that part of the conflict simply stop using it," the top US diplomat commented.
Kerry said he would meet Lavrov again on Friday, though confidence-building measures seemed beyond reach at this point.
Lavrov told Russian media that the consultations would continue to "guarantee" the ceasefire.
There are "attempts on the part of some of our partners to make it so that only unilateral steps are taken by the Syrian government," the Russian foreign minister said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was also quoted as saying that Kerry's "plan won't work."
On September 9, Russia and the United States agreed on a milestone deal on the Syrian crisis after some 13 hours of marathon talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
The deal, which began on September 12 and was initially agreed to last seven days, called for increased humanitarian aid for those trapped inside Aleppo.
The Syrian army announced an end to the week-long ceasefire on Monday, blaming militants for its failure. It said militant groups "did not commit to a single element" of the truce.
Russia later criticized the United States for not doing enough to rein in militants in Syria to protect the truce deal, saying continued violations of the ceasefire by militants made it "senseless" for Damascus to stick to the agreement.
"Syrian servicemen and peaceful citizens are still dying. The cause of this is the fact the United States has no effective leverage to influence Syria's opposition and is unaware of the real situation on the ground," Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian Defense Ministry official, told reporters earlier this week.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Over the past few months, the Takfiri militants active in the Arab country have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.
According to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.
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